The Swedish North-East Passage Expedition


    From letters despatched from the mouth of the Lena by Prof. Nordenskjöld on August 27, which have just been published in the Gothenburg Handels Tidning, we learn that the Vega accompanied by the Lena left Dickson Harbour, at the mouth of the Yenissej, on August 10, the weather being fine. On the 11th ice was seen, but it consisted almost exclusively of bay ice which did not obstruct navigation, which, however, was rendered difficult by a thick fog. The salinity of the water began gradually to increase and its temperature to fall. Organic life at the bottom grew richer at the same time, so that Dr. Stuxberg on the night between August 13 and 14, while the vessel lay anchored to a drift-ice floe, collected with the swab a large number of beautiful pure marine types; for example, large specimens of the remarkable crinoid, Alecto eschrichtii, numerous asterids (Asterias linckii and panopla) pycnogonids, &c. The dredgings near the land now too began to yield to Dr. Kjellman several large marine algæ. On the other hand the higher plant and animal life on land was still so poor that the coast here forms a complete desert in comparison with the rocky shores of Spitzbergen or West Novaya Zemlya. Auks, rotges, loons, and terns, which are met with on Spitzbergen in thousands upon thousands, are here almost completely absent. Gulls and Lestris which there fill the air with continual sound occur here only sparingly, each with two species, and it appears as if they quarrelled less with one another. Only the snow-bunting, six or seven species of waders, and a few varieties of geese are found on land in any great numbers. If we add a ptarmigan or two, a snowy owl, and a species of falcon, we have enumerated the whole bird fauna of the region, at least so far as the Swedish expedition have been able to ascertain it. Of warm-blooded animals in the neighbouring sea, only two walruses and some seals, Phoca barbata and hispida, were met with. There is probably great abundance of fish. Cosmic dust was sought for on the ice without success, but there was found upon it some yellow specks which, on examination, were found to be a coarsegrained sand, consisting exclusively of very beautifully-formed crystals up to two millimetres in diameter. The nature of these crystals was not ascertained, but it was evident that they are not formed of any ordinary terrestrial mineral, but possibly of some substance crystallised out of the sea-water during the severe cold of winter.

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